There are five facts you should know about "Greatest Rapper Alive" before proceeding with this review.
One might wonder why they should bother with such an obviously bootleg ghetto album. Believe it or not though this album is being sold by major retailers such as Best Buy, stocked on the store shelves right next to official discs like "Tha Carter II" and less official but widely available ones like "Dedication 2 - Gangsta Grillz." There are undoubtedly alleged notability experts who will refuse to add this album to Wayne's discography but if mainstream box stores are willing to stock it I'm willing to take it seriously. The overall impression one gets even before taking off the shrinkwrap is that this is another in a slew of mixtapes featuring Wayne freestyling over other people's beats. I hope he's getting paid for these projects considering how many retainers for legal services he's undoubtedly paid over the last 12 months. By the time "Tha Carter III" drops he may need to drop three or four more mixtapes just to stay afloat.
"Greatest Rapper Alive" features 29 tracks, although many are skits or only one to two minutes long. That doesn't mean there aren't some gems to be found throughout the album. "Yeah Yeah Yeah" has problems with the volume not being equalized, but it does feature a hypnotic electronic backdrop and a guest appearance by Trick Daddy. "Did it Before" is a lighthearted horny-horn track where Lil Wayne talks about his sexual escapades. He's really not saying anything, but at least he's saying it in an entertaining way. Some of these songs are clearly recycled from other mixtapes, such as "Shot to the Heart," which Wayne's fans will also know by the name "Something You Forgot." The song features a sped-up sample of Heart's smash hit "What About Love," which continues the trend of rappers spitting over tracks that used to be staples of American Top 40. Besides being on previous mixtapes this song may OR may not have been slated to appear on Rick Ross' "Trilla," thus explaining his presence on the track. Wayne does his best to claim the track as his own instead of the other way around.
"You forgot about the house, you forgot about the ring
I remember everything, I just wanna hear you sing
I remember the love, right after the fights
You can't tell me you don't remember those nights
and if I would cry, then you would cry twice
To me you are the brightest star under sunlight
See take away my title, take away my stripes
You give me back my girl and you give me back my life
Give me back my girl and you give me back my life
See this is just a nightmare, so I blink twice
Open up my eyes hopin' she'd be in my sight
I remember the time, I wish I could bring it back
What she mean to me, is what I mean to rap (what I mean to rap)"
It's at times like these that Wayne almost justifies the absurdity of the title "Greatest Rapper Alive." There are many rappers alive today who are easily better lyricists - Black Thought, Gift of Gab and Lyrics Born just to name a few - but Wayne brings a surprisingly sincere honesty to his rap and backs it up with a charismatic delivery. In comparison to his "father figure" Birdman the "Greatest" part comes through much more clearly, since Baby's rap seems excessively simplistic flows on songs like "Shovelin Snow." He starts out by ripping off an oft-quoted line from Jay-Z's "Some People Hate" and then it's only downhill from there:
"We hear you niggaz talkin fly shit
Like young money, Cash Money ain't gon' ride, bitch
Nigga, and make me flatten all your tires quick
And grab the hammer cock it straight between your eyes, bitch"
Memories of Kurupt float through my head on hearing these lines, but at least Kurupt has shown he can be more intelligent when he really wants to. Baby seems to be constantly stuck at the level of either generating wealth or spending it, a severely narcissitic materialism that the much more lyrical Wayne would do well to distance himself from. That's not to say there aren't times when it's okay to floss a little bit the way Weezy does on "Swoosh," but he still makes it more clever with his wordplay than many of his contemporaries would.
"I don't know what you on, but I'm on some new shit
While your bitch is on my dick like a glue stick
I got a grill, I don't have to get my tooth fixed
The Tooth Fairy would retire if I lose it
Straight out the clip is how I spit like an uzi
You can't find me cause I'm lost in the music"
For the most part the songs on the "Greatest Rapper Alive" mixtape represent Wayne well, no matter how many times or places they've appeared on similar albums. Songs such as "Feel Like Dying" and "Post Man" have been floating around so long you would hope they'd end up on an official release like "Tha Carter III" but odds are that the songs are so heavily recycled that Wayne feels they are old outdated material by now. There are three things I'll never understand about the so-called "Greatest Rapper Alive": why he lets so much of his material be jacked, why he doesn't release more legit albums to meet the large demand of his fans, and why he can't seem to avoid the wrath of the law. The greatest needs to work on being the smartest OUTSIDE of his rap songs. Who cares if you have a concealed weapons permit - hire bodyguards to protect you and let THEM carry the toolies. If you're a famous rapper and you like to smoke good, don't keep your stash on you - somebody in your clique has to carry for you and take the hit if caught so you don't. Once Wayne combines streets smarts and common sense with rhyme writing and charisma he may truly tap into potential that I didn't think he even had a decade ago. Right now he's on the threshold, but the danger for Wayne is that he may be remembered as the greatest posthumously if he taunts one too many haters and cops before Carters III through VIII drop.
Music Vibes: 6.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: April 8, 2008